To probably everyone’s surprise, Leica has jumped into the luxury watch market with two extravagant entries. The German company is mostly known for the incredible build quality of their equally expensive cameras, but it looks like they’re trying to translate that formula over to making watches.
When you consider the $10,000 price tag of the L1 and $14,000 for the L2, Leica’s high-end cameras start to look affordable by comparison. I’m skeptical that the watch community would embrace a newcomer to the luxury market, even if Leica has a long history of developing great cameras. The space is already occupied by so many heavy hitters, including Rolex, Omega, and the pricier Jaeger-LeCoultre, all of which have much more established reputations.
It’s not a huge stretch for Leica to make watches since cameras and watches both have a ton of tiny moving pieces that together make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. And it’s not like Leica only makes cameras. In the past, they’ve developed a bunch of binoculars, scopes and rangefinders, and even released a smartphone in the Japanese market. Still, it feels like a bit of an odd move for Leica to enter into the watches category.
Quality build — One thing is for sure, it does look like Leica took their watchmaking very seriously. The company tapped Achim Heine, who designed other Leica products in the past, and partnered with Lehmann Präzision to create the watches’ movements and to keep the product “Made in Germany.”
Both the L1 and L2 feature the newly-developed mechanical movement with manual winding and have a power reserve of 60 hours minimum. The watches have very similar features and complications but the more expensive L2 has a GMT function and a day / night indicator. The 41mm case is made of stainless steel, but has a domed face that’s meant to look like the front element of a camera. The L1 and L2 also have transparent backs, showing off its internal movement.
Leica has also presented a unique design with its watch crowns. Unlike the conventional crown which requires you to pull it out to adjust the watch, Leica’s patented push crown has you press in for adjustments. Heine said in the press release that, “we wanted the crown to be pressed down, like the release button of a camera.” And of course, Leica had to put a red ceramic insert into the crown because you can’t have Leica without a red dot.
Time will tell — The two Leica watches are already available, but only at certain Leica stores across the world. As of now, the L1 and L2 can be purchased at the Leica Store in Los Angeles as well as in stores in China, Singapore, Japan, Germany, Austria, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Leica said they will be adding more ways to purchase the watches later on.
Judging from the craftsmanship they put into all their products, Leica could become a serious contender in the luxury watch space. It’ll certainly be an uphill battle for Leica to develop a following for its watches, but its reputation for camera design could convince some potential buyers. As for me, I’ll still be dreaming about the day I can afford an M11, not a Leica watch.